How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

The post How To Accept Credit Cards Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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SBA 504 Loans: Your Guide To SBA/CDC Real Estate & Equipment Loans

The SBA 504 loan is a financing program offered by the Small Business Administration and Certified Development Companies. The loans, while selective, are open to eligible, for-profit small businesses operated by United States citizens and resident aliens. 504 loans are fit for small businesses in search of fixed interest rates with long-term financing and smaller down payments.

What Is The SBA CDC/504 Loan Program?

The SBA CDC/504 Loan Program is a financing program backed by the Small Business Administration. The goal of the program is to promote business growth and job creation through the support of small businesses.

The SBA connects recipients with a Certified Development Company (CDC). CDCs are non-profit organizations, certified and regulated by the SBA. These CDCs provide fixed-rate, long-term financing in partnership with lenders and the SBA. There are around 260 CDCs in the nation, which serve their local economies.

How Can SBA 504 Loans Be Used?

Often, 504 loans are referred to as SBA Real Estate Loans or SBA Commercial Real Estate Loans because of their strict usage policies, which make them a great option for purchasing fixed assets, like real estate.

In fact, proceeds from a small business real estate loan can only be used for fixed assets and few soft costs. The money cannot be used for working capital, inventory, or consolidating or paying debt.

Recipients of 504 Loans can use the proceeds to:

  • Purchase an existing building
  • Purchase land and land improvements
  • Construct new facilities
  • Renovate existing facilities
  • Purchase machinery and equipment for long-term use
  • Refinance debt in connection with renovating facilities or equipment

If your needs for financing don’t fit the bill, consider looking into the SBA 7(a) Loan Program, which offers broader options for small businesses.

CDC 504 Loan Pros & Cons

If you’re wondering whether this loan program is right for your small business, look into the pros and cons. Some small business owners prefer the 504 over the 7(a) loan and vice-versa. Consider the following if you’re looking into receiving a 504 loan:

Pros

  • Offers 90% financing, resulting in savings and improved cash flow for small businesses.
  • 504 Loan recipients often enjoy lower rates than those with traditional loans.
  • Recipients can include any 504 refinancing costs within the given loan.
  • Borrowers have the option to use given equity in the fixed asset as collateral.
  • The 504 Loan offers lower down payments of around 10%, compared to 25–30% on traditional loans.
  • Recipients of 504 loans can receive long-term capital: 20-year, fully amortized financing.

Cons

  • The CDC 504 Loan is selective about borrowers and usage of funds. If you meet all qualifications, this may be a positive for your business. For many businesses, however, this can be a burden. If you need funds for versatile needs and need a flexible loan, the 504 is not for you.
  • While borrowers can use funds to refinance eligible business operating expenses, there is a maximum 85% loan-to-value, meaning such operating expenses may not exceed 25% of the total value of eligible fixed assets.   
  • Prepayment penalties exist during the first half of the loan term. These rates are usually 100% of interest lost in the first year, 90% of interest lost in the second year, and so on, until the tenth year, in which it is equal to 0%.

SBA 504 Loans VS 7(a) Loans

If you’ve been doing your research on SBA loans, you know that 7(a) loans, like 504 loans, can be used to purchase real estate and equipment, construct, and renovate. So, what is the difference between a 504 loan and a 7(a) loan?

CDC / 504 Loans SBA 7(a) Loans

Loan Size

The CDC portion of the loan has a size limit, but the overall loan can be used to finance larger projects.

Offers flexibility for size projects, but are generally used for smaller sized projects.

Interest Rates

504 loans offer fixed-rate financing, which locks in low rates for the full length of the loan.

Usually has lower fees, but are variable, not fixed, and are adjusted quarterly. Rates typically rise over time.

Prepayment Penalty

High prepayment penalties

Prepayment penalties vary depending on loan

Loan Structure

  • 50% Bank Loan
  • 40% CDC Loan
  • 10% Borrower Down Payment

Varies depending on risk. Minimum 10% down payment for the borrower.

Loan Fees

Fees are negotiated per the 50% bank loan. Can be financed within the 504 loan.

Fees are based on the size of the loan. Can be financed within the 7(a) loan. An extra .25% of fees can be charged on portions of a 7(a) loan exceeding $1 million.

Do You Qualify? Borrower Requirements For SBA 504 Loans

To be eligible for an SBA 504 Loan, there are strict requirements a business must meet:

  • Borrowers must first meet the SBA size requirements
  • Businesses must have a tangible net worth less than $15 million.
  • You must also have an average net income less than $5 million (after federal income tax) the two previous years before applying.
  • Businesses must be for-profit
  • Businesses must be owned by U.S. citizens or resident aliens with permanent resident status.

For businesses wishing to gain financing for projects involving real estate, the business must occupy a minimum of 51% of rentable property for existing structures. Businesses intending to build a space must intend to occupy at least 60% of rentable property, with the intention of occupying 80% with growth.

As the 504 Loan is intended to directly create jobs, borrowers must also meet the job creation and retention requirement. This requires the business to create one job per $65,000 received in SBA financing. If the borrower is a small manufacturer, they must create one job per $100,000 borrowed.

If your business engages in other credible community goals, the job creation requirement can be waived. Such initiatives include community development goals, public policy goals, or modernizing facilities for health, safety, or environmental reasons.

There is no minimum credit score required, although it is best that you know ahead of time whether you can afford a small business loan.

SBA 504 Loan Terms, Fees, and Amounts

SBA 504 Loan Interest Rates & Fees

504 loans offer fixed rates and fees, set by the current market rate for 5-year and 10-year Treasury issues. If you’re receiving financing through a 504 loan, you can expect long-term fixed rates. SBA loan rates and fees will vary depending on the loan amount, lender, etc. 504 fees often include:

  • Interest Rates
  • CDC Servicing Fees
  • Central Servicing Agent Fees
  • SBA Guarantee Fees
  • Bank Fees
  • Third Party Fees (if applicable)
  • Prepayment Fees

SBA 504 Loan Borrowing Amounts

There is no maximum project size for businesses applying for a 504 loan. There is, however, a maximum SBA loan amount of $5 million. This debenture varies if the borrower is a small manufacturer or is planning an eligible energy project. Such borrowers can qualify for up to $5.5 million.

The CDC/504 Loan Application Process

Businesses applying for a 504 Loan should be prepared to provide evidence of eligibility, indebtedness, and creditworthiness. The 504 Loan application is roughly thirteen pages long and requires information on project cost, energy efficiency goals, debenture pricing, etc. Once the application is completed, it should be submitted to the CDC, which will then forward the information to the SBA Loan Processing Center.

Final Thoughts

The SBA 504 Loan Program is a great option for small businesses in need of cash for fixed assets, expansion, or modernization. If you need fixed interest rates, long terms, and a smaller down payment, this might be for you. Check out our SBA Loan Calculator to estimate everything you need to know about your individual loan.

If 504 loans aren’t quite what you’re looking for, try checking out the 7(a) Loan Program, which offers wider flexibility for many small business owners. Applying for financing can be an arduous task, so always consider your individual business and make your decision based on what’s right for you!

The post SBA 504 Loans: Your Guide To SBA/CDC Real Estate & Equipment Loans appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers

Offshore Merchant Account Providers

Ordinary payment processing is complicated. But finding good offshore, international, or high-risk payment solutions can be a real nightmare. If you fall into one of these categories, you’ve likely had your merchant account applications denied at least a few times. Even worse, perhaps you’ve had your processing service terminated and your money withheld from you for months. We understand your struggle. We’ve seen hundreds of businesses go through the exact same thing, and we’re here to help you find the perfect offshore merchant account for your high-risk business.

If you’re just looking for a run-of-the-mill high-risk merchant account for your business, you’ll want to check out our article The Best High-Risk Merchant Account Providers. The high-risk category often includes business types that you wouldn’t normally associate with the term “high-risk,” such as airlines or online furniture sales. While these types of businesses are usually treated as high-risk by banks and processors, they can usually be approved for a domestic merchant account by working with a high-risk specialist.

For our purposes, we’ll use the terms offshore merchant account and international merchant account interchangeably, as they mean the same thing. Both terms refer to a merchant account that is underwritten by a bank or processor that is situated in a different country from the one where the business is located. The most common reasons for needing an offshore account include the following:

  • You do a significant amount of business in a foreign country and need to accept payments in the local currency.
  • Your business has offices in multiple countries, and you need separate merchant accounts for each location.
  • Your business is considered to be so risky that you cannot obtain a regular high-risk merchant account in your own country.

Below, we’ll discuss the factors to evaluate when considering an offshore merchant account and several special features that you’ll want to include in your service. We’ll also profile four offshore merchant account providers that we feel offer superior service and overall value in comparison to their competitors.

Factors To Consider When Selecting An Offshore Merchant Account

While many offshore merchant account providers also specialize in high-risk accounts more generally, not all high-risk processors work with international merchants or provide offshore accounts for domestic merchants. Many high-risk specialists only work with US-based businesses, and only provide accounts through US-based banks and processors. Before you apply for an offshore account, you’ll want to confirm that the company you’re considering works with businesses located in your country. This information might be spelled out explicitly on the provider’s website, or you might have to talk to their sales staff to get a confirmation.

Providers that specialize in setting up offshore merchant accounts can usually get you an account in just about any country around the world, though obviously, there are exceptions. As a US-based merchant, don’t expect to set up your offshore account in a place like Afghanistan or North Korea. It’s simply not going to happen. With the exception of countries limited by political considerations or a high level of instability, however, the possibilities are wide open.

In most cases, you should aim to get an account in a country where you expect to do a significant amount of business. On the other hand, if your business is going to operate exclusively in the United States, an offshore account serves mainly as a last resort for getting a merchant account when you simply can’t get approved for a domestic high-risk account. Banking regulations are more relaxed in certain other countries, and the willingness on the part of banks and processors to work with high-risk businesses is also more favorable. At the same time, you should be aware that setting up an offshore account under these circumstances, while it might be your only option for accepting credit cards, can present some serious risks to you as well. Your ability to pursue a legal remedy against a foreign bank or processor might be severely limited – or even nonexistent. At a minimum, you should consider legally registering your business in the country where your account will be located. Even with legal standing in the country, however, be aware that it might be extremely inconvenient and expensive to pursue a legal action outside of your own country.

There’s also an increased risk that you could become the victim of fraud or identity theft. Banks in other countries collect the same personal data about you and your business that US-based banks do, but they don’t always do as good a job of protecting it. You’ll want to keep an especially close eye on your merchant account, your business account, and any personal accounts about which you’ve released information to get approved for an offshore merchant account.

High-risk merchant accounts are notorious for including higher processing rates and account fees, and offshore accounts can be even worse. Providers know you’re particularly desperate and some, but not all, will take advantage of your situation by charging you as much as they think they can get away with. We recommend that you shop around and compare multiple quotes when looking for an offshore account. Don’t accept the first offer from a bank or processor just because they’re the first one that hasn’t rejected your application due to the nature of your business.

Note that merchant account providers who market offshore accounts often downplay or fail to mention these risk factors, so it’s up to you to look out for yourself. Do your own independent research, compare multiple offers, and thoroughly review all contract documents before you sign up for an account.

Special Features Of Offshore Merchant Accounts

For the most part, you’ll want the same services and features for an offshore account that you would want for a traditional merchant account. This includes processing hardware such as credit card terminals and POS systems for retail merchants, and a robust payment gateway for eCommerce merchants. You’ll also want an online account dashboard of some kind that allows you to monitor your sales in real-time. While online account access is now a standard feature in the United States, you might not always find this feature with an offshore account. Mail-order and telephone-order (MOTO) businesses often find a virtual terminal to be the most cost-effective method for inputting transactions. Depending on the needs of your business, a smartphone- or tablet-based mobile processing system might also be important. Almost all providers offer some type of mobile processing system these days, either as a proprietary product or through a partnership with a third-party provider. Be aware that very few mobile processing systems have begun to offer EMV-compatible card readers, and you’ll often be stuck with a magstripe-only reader.

In addition to these basic merchant account features, there are several special features that your offshore merchant account might (or might not) include. How important these features are to your business will be determined by how you intend to use your account. Extra features to look for in an offshore merchant account include the following:

  • Multi-Currency Support: If you’re going to do business in a foreign country, it only makes sense that you’ll want your customers to be able to pay in their local currency. Multi-currency accounts allow you to maintain balances in multiple currencies and can save you a ton of money in currency conversion costs.
  • Currency Conversion Services: Having an offshore account will invariably require you to convert funds into your own local currency at some point. Most offshore account providers include built-in currency conversion services that allow you to convert foreign funds when it comes time to transfer them to your business account. While these services can sometimes offer you much lower conversion fees than what a bank would charge you, it still pays to shop around for the best deal on this service. You might save money by using an international transfer service such as TransferWise or OFX.
  • Expanded Anti-Fraud Features: Offshore merchant accounts invariably involve a higher degree of risk of fraud than their traditional counterparts, so you’ll want as many extra services to avoid it as you can get. Most offshore account providers offer a number of enhanced anti-fraud features as a standard part of their service. These features automatically detect suspicious activity, hopefully stopping any fraudulent activity before it can affect your business. Providers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) features to improve their ability to detect potential fraud beyond what would be possible with a traditional algorithm.

With these considerations in mind, let’s take a brief look at four of our overall favorite offshore merchant account providers:

Durango Merchant Services

Durango Merchant Services is a small merchant account provider headquartered in Durango, Colorado. Established in 1999, the company specializes in providing high-risk and offshore merchant accounts to hard-to-place businesses. They work with a wide variety of banks and processors to find a suitable account for almost any business. While they can’t place 100% of the merchants who apply to them, their track record is very good, and their sales process is so transparent and honest that we’ve even seen praise for the company from merchants who’ve been turned down for an account.

If you need an offshore account, Durango has you covered. Their accounts include multicurrency support as well as enhanced anti-fraud features to keep you protected. They can set up accounts in countries as diverse as Germany, Panama, Spain, and many others.

Durango doesn’t try to set you up with expensive leases when it comes to processing equipment. Instead, they offer a variety of terminals for sale right on their website. Options include both wired and wireless models, with some offerings that support NFC payments. They also sell the iPS Mobile Card Terminal, which connects to a smartphone to provide mobile payments capability in conjunction with the iProcess mobile app. If you’re using a virtual terminal, they sell the MagTek DynaMag, a USB-connected magstripe card reader that attaches to your computer. Unfortunately, it’s Windows-only. Durango currently doesn’t offer any POS systems for sale.

The company supports eCommerce through its proprietary Durango Pay payment gateway, which integrates with the numerous processors the company uses and includes support for most of the popular online shopping carts. Durango’s gateway also features an Authorize.Net Emulator, which allows it to interface with any shopping cart that works with Authorize.Net (see our review).

Because Durango works with such a wide variety of third-party processors to set you up with an offshore merchant account, they don’t list rates or fees on their website. These will vary tremendously depending on which processor they set you up with. While we normally like to see more transparency from merchant account providers, in this case, it’s understandable. Depending on your qualifications, you can expect either an interchange-plus pricing plan or a tiered one. Merchant accounts through Durango don’t seem to have standardized fees. Again, these will depend on the terms that your backend processor imposes.

Durango assigns a dedicated account manager to every one of their merchants, which means you’ll be talking to the same person every time you have an issue. While this can sometimes be problematic outside of regular business hours and when your account manager isn’t available, overall it provides a much higher level of service than you’ll get from a random customer service representative.

Pros

  • Direct sales of processing equipment
  • Reasonable rates and fees based on your business and your backend processor
  • Dedicated account manager for customer service and support

Cons

  • No support for POS systems
  • USB card reader not compatible with Mac computers

For more information about Durango Merchant Services, read our complete review.

SMB Global

SMB Global logo

SMB Global is a new high-risk provider that was spun off from one of our favorite providers, Payline Data in 2016. Headquartered in South Jordan, Utah, the company specializes in providing merchant accounts to high-risk and offshore businesses. Using a variety of backend processors, they’re able to approve a merchant account for almost any high-risk business (including those selling CBD oils). They have an excellent reputation for fair prices and top-notch customer service.

As a newly-established business, SMB Global is still a little rough around the edges, lacking a mobile processing system and credit card terminals for retail merchants. At the same time, they offer a full range of services for eCommerce merchants, including a choice between the NMI Gateway and Authorize.Net.

Because they work with so many banks and processors to get you approved for an account, the company doesn’t offer any pricing information. Processing rates, account fees, and contract terms will all vary widely depending on which backend processor is handling your account. While we highly recommend that you request an interchange-plus pricing plan, be prepared to have to accept a tiered plan instead, particularly if you haven’t been in business for very long. Likewise, you can also expect to have a standard three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause and an early termination fee if you close your account early. As a high-risk merchant, you should be prepared to have a rolling reserve included in your account agreement.

SMB Global requires a minimum processing volume of $50,000 per month for an offshore merchant account, although they will occasionally waive this requirement if your business has a very strong financial history. Offshore accounts support multi-currency processing, allowing you to avoid cross-border fees. They also feature dynamic currency conversion, letting your customers pay in either their local currency or the currency in which you bill them.

Pros

  • Offers international merchant accounts to a wide variety of industries
  • Reasonable pricing and contract terms
  • Excellent customer service

Cons

  • No mobile app
  • No information available about credit card terminals or POS systems

For a more detailed look at SMB Global, be sure to check out our full review.

Host Merchant Services

Host Merchant Services is a relative newcomer to the merchant accounts business, first opening in 2009. The company is headquartered in Newark, Delaware and has a second office in Naples, Florida. While they primarily cater to traditional, low-risk businesses, they can accommodate several categories of high-risk businesses and also offer offshore accounts. Their interchange-plus-only pricing and a full range of products and services make them an excellent choice – if you can get approved. A former web hosting company, HMS is ideally suited for eCommerce merchants. They use TSYS as their primary backend processor, but can also work with several international banks and processors to get you an account.

For retail merchants, HMS offers a variety of Verifone and Equinox (formerly Hypercom) terminals. Terminals are offered for sale, and the company does not lease its equipment. While prices are not disclosed on the HMS website, you should be able to negotiate a very reasonable deal on terminals, especially if you need more than one. If you already have a compatible terminal, they’ll reprogram it for free.

HMS also offers a variety of POS systems that utilize either tablets or touchscreen displays. Choices range from an 8” tablet-based system up to a 17” touchscreen monitor. The company’s Starter, Plus, TouchStation Plus, and Custom POS options should meet the requirements of just about any business that needs or wants a POS system.

If you need a mobile processing capability for your business, HMS has you covered, offering the ProcessNow mobile payments system via a partnership with TSYS. ProcessNow works with either iOS or Android phones, but the current card reader is magstripe-only and requires a headphone jack to plug into.

As a tech-focused company, eCommerce is HMS’ specialty. The company has recently introduced their proprietary Transaction Express payment gateway, which includes a free virtual terminal. HMS also supports a large number of third-party gateways, including Authorize.Net.

HMS uses interchange-plus pricing exclusively for its low-risk merchants, but you might have to pay tiered rates if you have an offshore account. While they don’t disclose their rates on their website, they’re based primarily on monthly processing volume and are very competitive. Fees are not disclosed either, but include a $24.00 annual fee, a $14.99 monthly account fee (which includes PCI compliance), a variable payment gateway fee ($5.00 per month for Transaction Express, $7.50 per month plus $0.05 per transaction for Authorize.Net) and the usual incidental fees (i.e., chargebacks, voice authorizations, etc.). High-risk and offshore merchants should expect to pay higher fees than these, and possibly additional fees as well. In particular, be prepared to have a rolling reserve included as part of your account.

HMS provides customer service and support via 24/7 telephone and email. Chat is available via the HMS website during regular business hours. They also feature an extensive collection of articles and blog posts on their site for customer education. Support quality appears to be well-above-average, based on the almost complete absence of complaints about it on the BBB and other consumer protection websites. If your business falls into one of the categories of high-risk activities that the company can accommodate, HMS is an excellent choice for an offshore merchant account.

Pros

  • Full range of products and services for retail and eCommerce businesses
  • Exclusive interchange-plus pricing plans (for low-risk businesses)
  • Excellent customer service and support

Cons

  • Rates and fees not disclosed on website
  • Can only accommodate a small number of high-risk business categories
  • Mobile card reader not EMV-compliant

For more information, see our complete review.

Easy Pay Direct

Easy Pay Direct logo

Easy Pay Direct is headquartered in Austin, Texas and has been in business since 2000. The company’s primary product is their proprietary EPD Gateway, but they also provide full-service merchant accounts for international, high-risk, and traditional non-high-risk merchants. High-risk merchants will have to pay a premium in terms of processing rates and account fees, whether they’re partnered with a domestic or offshore bank or processor. However, the additional expense is entirely reasonable under the circumstances.

Like most offshore merchant account specialists, Easy Pay Direct works with a variety of banks and processors, both domestic and international, to find one that’s a match for the needs of your business. You’ll have to pay a $99 account setup fee to get started, but considering the extra effort required to underwrite a high-risk or offshore account, we feel the expense is justified in this case. Processing rates will be under a tiered pricing plan, but you should still have some room to negotiate your rates, especially if you have a high monthly processing volume. Contracts generally follow the industry standard, or a three-year initial term that automatically renews for one-year periods after that. One very positive feature about Easy Pay Direct’s contracts is that they do not have an early termination fee, even for high-risk businesses. While this isn’t quite the same thing as true month-to-month billing, it does make it much easier to close your account without penalty if you have to.

One helpful feature offered by Easy Pay Direct is called load balancing, where a business can divide its incoming funds among multiple merchant accounts. This is particularly helpful for high-risk businesses that often exceed the monthly processing volume limits imposed by the processor underwriting their account. Just be aware that you’ll usually have to pay separate monthly fees for each account, so it might not be cost-effective for some merchants. Also, be aware that you might not need this feature if you opt for an offshore account. Underwriting guidelines in some (but by no means all) foreign countries are more relaxed, and you might not have a monthly processing limit imposed on your account at all.

Although Easy Pay Direct doesn’t get as much attention as other, better-known processors, it’s a solid choice for merchants in the high-risk category or those who need an offshore account. We particularly recommend the company for high-risk eCommerce businesses due to the robust feature set of their EPD Gateway.

Pros

  • Load balancing feature for high-risk merchants
  • No equipment leases
  • No early termination fee

Cons

  • $99 account setup fee
  • Three-year contract with automatic renewal clause

Check out our full review of Easy Pay Direct for more information.

Final Thoughts

Having a hard-to-place business doesn’t mean you have to run your company through Bitcoin. You can accept credit card payments just like any other business by finding a payment processor that will set you up with the right acquiring banks. At the same time, you need to be fully aware that, for a US-based business, signing up for an offshore merchant account is a risky endeavor. You’ll want to be very cautious and carefully research any provider you consider, even the ones we’ve recommended above. Take extra care to protect your sensitive personal financial data and be sure your account includes additional fraud prevention features. You might also want to consider registering your business in the country where your merchant account is located – just in case. Having a merchant account in Panama might sound very tempting if you’ve been repeatedly turned down by domestic providers, but it will be very expensive to have to travel there in person if you later run into legal troubles with your account provider.

Of the four offshore merchant account providers we’ve reviewed above, Durango Merchant Services is undoubtedly the best all-around provider of the group. They disclose more detailed information about offshore accounts than any of the other providers. SMB Global is also an excellent choice. While the company itself is very new, they have an impressive track record from their days operating as the high-risk division of Payline Data. Finally, both Easy Pay Direct and Host Merchant Services offer a solid line-up of products and services for both eCommerce and retail merchants. If you need an offshore account to break into the world of accepting credit cards, they both have everything you need to get started.

Finally, we can’t caution you strongly enough that selecting and setting up an offshore merchant account involves a higher level of risk on your part, and you’ll need to be extra cautious in choosing a company to go with. Relaxed underwriting guidelines and a general lack of monthly processing limits make offshore accounts very tempting to merchants who’ve had a hard time getting their business approved for a traditional account, but these advantages come at a price. If anything goes wrong in your relationship with your provider, you might face some real challenges in pursuing a legal remedy. You should also be aware that if this happens, the US-based provider that brokered your account will not be able to help you in most cases.

Do your homework! Research your provider thoroughly and review all contract documents very carefully before signing up. While these steps won’t eliminate the chance of things going sideways somewhere down the road, they will shift the odds considerably in your favor.

The post The Best Offshore Merchant Account Providers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Tie

Accounting

Tie

Features

✓

✓

Pricing

✓

Hardware & Software Requirements

User Permissions

✓

✓

Ease of Use

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Negative Reviews & Complaints

✓

✓

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Integrations

✓

Tie

Security

Tie

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Final Verdict

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Review Visit

Review Visit

We all love a good underdog story. But when underdog Zoho Books takes on one of the biggest names in accounting, QuickBooks Online, can this lesser-known software give QBO a run for its money? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.

Redesigned and relaunched in 2014, Zoho Books continues to only get better. The software offers ample features, the most beautiful invoicing out there (including the ability to send invoices in multiple languages), excellent customer service, and strong mobile apps.

QuickBooks Online has been around since 2004. With advanced accounting, an impressive feature set, almost 280 integrations, and a brand new lending feature, it’s easy to see why QuickBooks Online is so popular.

But which accounting software is better, Zoho Books or QuickBooks?

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. To make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll compare Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online (QBO) based on features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.

Accounting

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks offer strong accounting. Each uses double-entry accounting and supports both accrual and cash-basis accounting. In terms of accounting features, both offer a customizable chart of accounts, ample reports, journal entries, and bank reconciliation.

Features

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

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Invoicing

✓

✓

Multiple Invoice Languages

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✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

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✓

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart Of Accounts

✓

✓

Fixed Asset Management

✓

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Depreciation

✓

✓

Contact Management

✓

✓

Accounts Payable

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✓

✓

Inventory

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✓

Tracking Categories

✓

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Budgeting

✓

✓

Print Checks

✓

✓

Multi-Currency Support

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Tax Support

✓

✓

Importing & Exporting

✓

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Lending

✓

Note: Feature availability varies by pricing plan.

Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online are mostly on par in terms of features. Each offers beautiful invoicing templates and invoicing automation, as well as inventory, contact management, expense tracking, accounts payable, and project management. While Zoho Books puts up a great effort, QuickBooks Online edges out the competition — but just barely.

QuickBooks Online offers several features that Zoho doesn’t, including budgeting and small business lending. In addition, QuickBooks Online has a much more developed time tracking feature and more tax support. QuickBooks Online gives users the option to add payroll to their software (for an extra cost), whereas Zoho Books has no payroll support.

One place where Zoho Books actually trumps QuickBooks is international invoicing. QuickBooks doesn’t allow you to send invoices in multiple languages whereas Zoho Books does. However, this unique touch isn’t enough to make up for the lack of budgeting and limited time tracking.

Pricing

Winner: Zoho Books

QuickBooks Online offers three pricing plans ranging from $15 – $50/month, with payroll support costing an extra $39 – $99/month (plus $2/month per employee). Zoho Books offers three pricing plans as well ranging from $9 – $29/month.

Zoho Books takes the cake as far a pricing goes, especially considering that you get nearly all of the same features as QuickBooks Online for almost half the cost.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, QuickBooks Online works with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection and are using one of the following browsers:

  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Internet Explorer 10+
  • Safari 6.1+

Similarly, Zoho Books is also cloud-based and compatible with nearly any device and works with these browsers:

  • Internet Explorer
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Opera

Both also offer mobile apps available for Apple products and Androids, although Zoho takes it up a level by offering mobile apps for Microsoft phones and Kindles as well. This, along with supporting Opera, is why Zoho Books wins in terms of hardware and software requirements.

Users & Permissions

Winner: QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books’ largest plan offers 9 users plus one accountant; QuickBooks Online’s largest plan offers 5 users plus two accountants. Additional users can be added to each plan.

Zoho Books offers very limited users permissions, making QuickBooks Online the clear winner here. With QuickBooks Online you can set multiple user roles and control each user’s access to certain features. Because of this important distinction, QBO wins this category despite offering few users.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online are relatively easy to use. Both have modern UIs that are well-organized and easy to learn. However, each software suffers from the occasional navigational difficulty. That being said, Zoho Books has far better customer support and fewer bugs and glitches making it easier to learn and navigate.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online offer strong mobile apps. Zoho Books receives 4.8/5 stars on iTunes and 4.5/5 stars on the Google Play Store. QuickBooks Online receives 4.7/5 stars on iTunes and 4.3/5 stars on the Google Play Store.

While both company’s apps are fairly close in ratings, Zoho Books’ mobile apps are full-featured and compatible with Microsoft phones and Kindles in addition to iPhone and Androids, making it the winner here.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books has the better customer support by far. In my experience, representatives respond quickly to emails and I have hardly ever been put on hold when calling their support team. Representatives are generally kind and informative. Additionally, Zoho Books has a well-developed knowledge base with tons of articles, videos, guides, and more — and it all can be accessed directly from within the software to boot.

In the past, QuickBooks Online had notoriously poor customer support and extremely long phone wait times. While the company has been remedying this over the last year or so, QBO still has a ways to go if they want to top Zoho Books in the customer service arena.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: QuickBooks Online

This is one category QuickBooks Online should not want to win. QuickBooks Online has received many complaints. Most complaints revolve around poor customer service experiences, bugs, limited apps, and even a few unauthorized charges.

Zoho Books, on the other hand, has received far fewer customer complaints (granted Zoho Books has far fewer customer reviews in general, but the ratio of negative to positive reviews is smaller). The complaints that do exist revolve around the lack of payroll and limited integrations.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Zoho Books

While QuickBooks Online has a higher number of positive reviews overall, Zoho Books has a higher percentage of positive reviews, which is why it wins this category. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd. Users love that the software is easy to use, affordable, and updated frequently. They also like the mobile apps.

Integrations

Winner: QuickBooks Online

There’s no question here. QuickBooks Online offers around 280 integrations as opposed to Zoho Books’ 33.

Security

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online implement strong security measures. Each uses data encryption, redundancy, routing testing, and physical security measures to protect their data centers.

To learn more about cloud security read our posts Is My Accounting Safe In The Cloud? and What Is SSL? A First Look At Online Security.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online

Zoho Books definitely gives QBO a run for its money. However, there a few areas where QuickBooks Online beats out its opponent. QuickBooks Online offers more integrations, more advanced features, better tax support, and payroll. The lack of payroll, or any payroll integrations, seriously rules Zoho Books as an option for many businesses, solidifying QuickBooks Online’s place as the winner.

QuickBooks Online is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses in need of strong accounting, so much so that we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses. The software offers strong accounting, decent mobile apps, ample integrations, and beautiful invoicing. QuickBooks Online also has a unique new lending feature, QuickBooks Capital, so you can potentially have your small business accounting and financing all in one place.

However, just because we named QuickBooks Online the winner, doesn’t mean that Zoho Books isn’t the better choice for your business. Zoho Books is ideal for small businesses looking for an easy-to-use accounting software with strong mobile apps and plenty of features. It’s also a great choice if you need international invoicing. If you don’t require payroll or budgeting, you could save a chunk of change by going with Zoho Books instead of QuickBooks — plus, you’ll get much better customer support.

Or, maybe after reading this post, neither option seems right for you. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting software reviews can help you find the perfect bookkeeping solution for your business. If you need extra help deciding, read our Complete Guide To Choose Online Accounting Software.

Check out our full Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online reviews for more information. Be sure to take advantage of the free trials each software provides and feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.

The post Zoho Books VS QuickBooks Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Dynadot Review: Pros and Cons of Dynadot as Domain Registrar

Dynadot Review

Dynadot is an ICANN-accredited domain registrar and web host headquartered in California. They were founded in 2002 by a software engineer and state their primary focus is engineering and designing excellence.

Dynadot’s main pitch is to help customers “register domains names and create websites simply and affordably”.

They are one of the myriad smaller domain registrars that have a dedicated but smaller following than the big brands like GoDaddy.

Do they hold up to their mission? Here’s our Dynadot review with pros and cons.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Dynadot

Straightforward Search + Purchase Process

Dynadot makes good on its promise to make registering a domain simple. The interface is clean, easy to navigate, and straightforward. There aren’t any bells and whistles, which for a domain registrar is just fine — we don’t need them. What we need is function and usability, and Dynadot’s interface gives us both. It’s basic and directs you to where you need to go.

Dynadot Interface

While Dynadot does offer complementary products (such as websites and hosting — more on that in a bit), the design has no upsells, cross-sells, or visual clutter. There is no distraction from the main action, which is to search and register for a domain, and the checkout process is quick and easy to complete.

Transparent Pricing

There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a domain registrar and having to hunt for pricing information. Dynadot is 100% transparent with their pricing. From the moment you land on the homepage, you can see what .com domains and other popular top level domains (TLDs) are selling for.

Dynadot Pricing

As far as the actual value goes, Dynadot skews toward the cheaper side for first-time purchases and renewals. They’re not as cheap as NameCheap or GoDaddy for a first time purchase of a .com domain (who offer first time purchase promo codes), but their renewal rates are cheaper ($8.99 vs. $13.16 for NameCheap and $15.17 for GoDaddy), and their transfer rates are on par with the rest.

If you’re planning on holding on to your domain for awhile, it could be worth purchasing it elsewhere and then transferring and renewing with Dynadot to save money in the long run.

Variety of TLDs

Now that ICANN allows more TLDs outside of generic .com/.net/.org, website owners have to make sure their domain registrar has all of the variations they need (especially if you’re buying in bulk). Dynadot offers a ton of TLD options that go beyond generic domains, from country-specific domains for international use to category-specific, like technology, real estate, etc.

Dynadot TLD Variations

Upsells

Upsells aren’t inherently annoying or bad. But so many domain registrars make the mistake of bombarding customers with direct sales tactics that they do become annoying.

Dynadot is not one of these domain registrars. While they do offer complementary products such as websites and hosting, they keep them in the background. You can add them from your account dashboard once you purchase a domain, or you can purchase them from the Dynadot homepage, but at no point are you bombarded with pop-ups or forced to navigate through upsells while trying to buy a domain.

Cons of Dynadot

Unclear Next Steps/Management

Dynadot makes registering a domain incredibly simple… but once you register the domain, there aren’t clear instructions as to what to do next. As soon as I was done checking out, I was given a referral code to share with friends and an order pending message with details. There weren’t any instructions on what to do now that I have my domain.

This is fine for those who are familiar with registering domains and building websites, but if you’re new to the experience and looking for guidance, there’s not much to go on.

Even the follow up email I received after my order had been processed was lacking detailed instructions. Again, if you’re experienced in managing domains, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if you’re a beginner and aren’t sure how to set up your nameservers (or what those even are), you’re probably going to be confused. Transfer Code Dynadot

I also found it difficult to actually manage my domain. For example, I couldn’t find where I’d go about transferring my domain when I was logged into my account. I had to click around a good bit (and eventually consult the help forum) to get that information.

This experience relates to “onboarding” which is the jargon for moving a new customer to an active customer.

Complementary Products

It’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not email or any other service. It’s merely your address online. It helps people locate where your property is by telling browsers/email/etc where to go to get whatever it wants (website files, emails, images, data, etc).

If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting.

Dynadot provides an all-in-one approach with complementary products. You can bundle your domain, website builder, hosting, and email and do it all from their platform.

Typically, this would be a pro —  while I personally prefer to separate my hosting and domains to provide an extra layer of control & reliability in addition to cost savings, many website owners prefer to have them bundled for convenience.

But Dynadot’s complementary products are actually a con due to serious limitations.

For example, Dynadot only offers VPS hosting (virtual private server) rather than the more traditional spectrum of shared hosting paired with a website builder or open-source software.

Dynadot VPS Hosting

While VPS provides a level of control you can’t get with Shared hosting (where every account is treated the same), you have to be technically competent enough to manage your own server resources.

If you don’t like getting in the weeds with your server, the price only makes sense if you know how to use it. It’s a bit like buying the whole chicken at the grocery store and cutting it yourself instead of buying the drumsticks, thighs, and breasts. On one hand, it makes sense if you know how to carve it and are willing to take the time to do it… but most people just want it done for them.

In most cases, if you’re looking to bundle your website, hosting, email, and domain management, then you’re looking for convenience. Dynadot, for all their simplicity in the domain buying experience, doesn’t prioritize convenience in their products. They’re a company founded by a software developer — they’re into engineering and hands-on approaches. That’s fine – but it’s also something to be aware of as a customer. It’s like going to a lumber yard over Home Depot. You get the same thing, but the feel is a bit different.

Next Steps

If you…

  • Want a very simple domain purchasing process
  • Don’t need guidance on how to set up / manage your domain
  • Want to save on domain renewals
  • Are looking for complementary products you can customize to your own needs

…. Dynadot could be a good choice for you.

However, if you’re…

  • Less experienced getting online
  • Need detailed steps on how to set up / manage your domain
  • Want to keep your hosting / website separate from your domain
  • Want complementary products that require less technical expertise

… there are better options out there for you (I use NameCheap). You can take my domain registrar quiz to help you narrow down which might be best for your needs.

Dynadot

Dynadot is an ICANN accredited domain registrar and hosting company founded in 2002. They offer domain registration and management along with complementary products like hosting, website builders, and email.
Dynadot Review
Date Published: 08/29/2018
Simple, straightforward domain purchasing process with cheap renewal rates. Domain management and complementary products are geared toward those with more technical experience.
3 / 5 stars

The post Dynadot Review: Pros and Cons of Dynadot as Domain Registrar appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Is WordPress Easy To Use For eCommerce?

If you know anything about web development, you know about WordPress. WordPress is now the most popular Content Management System (CMS) in the world, powering over 31% of websites globally. In fact, WordPress is the software behind the very website you’re currently on!

As an everyday WordPress user myself, I can say with confidence that WordPress is a great CMS for many purposes, including online selling. The software is open-source and popular, meaning that it’s fully customizable and that there are plug-ins available to extend the functionality of the software.

While it’s true that WordPress was originally built as a blogging platform, several eCommerce plugins make it possible to transform your website into a full-fledged online store. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at three of the most popular eCommerce software systems that work with WordPress.

But first, let’s take a look at WordPress as a stand-alone software.

Is WordPress Easy To Use?

WordPress is a very learnable software. The software is fairly easy to use once you get the hang of things. However, this initial learning process may take some time.

This is particularly true if you are new to web development. As open-source software, WordPress is not exactly plug-and-play. In order to get your site online, you’ll have to find your own web host and then install WordPress on your hosting account. In addition, you will be responsible for maintaining your site’s security.

Once you’ve finished setting everything up, you will find that when it comes to daily operations, WordPress is very usable.

As you consider using WordPress for your online store, you’ll have to keep in mind the pros and cons of the software. Here’s a quick breakdown of those advantages and disadvantages:

Pros

  • Open Source: Because WordPress is open source, you have the freedom to modify the software however you choose. In addition, you can choose to sell your modifications to other users!
  • Free: WordPress is free to download and use. However, you should note that operating a website comes with other expenses. Take a look at our “Cons” list for more information.
  • Large User Community: With so many bloggers, sellers, and developers using WordPress, you can expect to find lively community forums in WordPress’s support resources. Get help from fellow users or purchase plug-ins from a wide range of developers.
  • Reliable Software: You can depend on WordPress as a glitch-free CMS.
  • Lots Of Plug-Ins Available: WordPress and third-party developers alike have put out thousands of plug-ins that you can purchase and install to add features to your platform.

Cons

  • For Do-It-Yourselfers Only: When you use WordPress, you will be responsible for managing your web hosting and site security.
  • Some Experience Required: You either must have some experience editing HTML/CSS or you must be willing to learn.
  • Limited Technical Support: WordPress offers some support via email and live chat. However, for the most part, you’re on your own when it comes to technical issues.
  • Common Target For Hackers: Open source software is often the target of security attacks. You’ll have to keep an eye out for any new security patches.
  • Difficult To Estimate Total Costs: Although WordPress is free to use, you will still have to pay the typical costs of operating a website. You’ll need to pay for hosting, an SSL certificate, a theme, and any plug-ins you choose to use.

Now you know a bit more about the usability of WordPress, let’s start talking about our favorite eCommerce plug-ins for WordPress! All three of the following plug-ins are affordable, easy-to-use, and easy to integrate with any WordPress website.

Let’s get started!

WooCommmerce

WooCommerce is a free, open source eCommerce plug-in that is designed specifically to be used with WordPress. WooCommerce fits businesses of all sizes, from startup to enterprise. In fact, WooCommerce has been downloaded over 48 million times, making it one of the most popular eCommerce solutions in the world.

WooCommerce is easy to incorporate into your WordPress site. All you have to do is install and activate the WooCommerce app in your “Plug-ins” tab. Activating this plug-in turns your blogging back-end into an online store admin. Take a look:

In this dashboard, you can manage everything for your online store. For example, you can create products, access pending orders, adjust shipping setting, enter product information, and set up inventory tracking.

WooCommerce provides enough features to handle all the basic operations of online selling. Everything else is available as an extension. Here are a few of the features built-in:

  • Sell Digital & Physical Products
  • Inventory Management Features
  • Shipping Calculator & Shipping Options (Pickup, Local Delivery, Calculated Shipping)
  • SEO Features
  • Coupons & Discounts

WooCommerce offers lots of themes to choose from. Most of these are designed by third-parties; however, WooCommerce also creates its own designs called “WooThemes.” We recommend you stick with these WooThemes as they tend to work best with WooCommerce updates. For the most part, in order to change large aspects of these designs, you will be required to edit the HTML and CSS.

Like WordPress, WooCommerce offers very limited customer support to their customers. You are mostly on your own. Fortunately, WooCommerce does have a detailed knowledge base as well as a supportive user community to help you through any difficulties.

We love WooCommerce for its customizability, its scalability, and of course, its price. To learn more about WooCommerce, take a look at our full review of the software. Or, download WooCommerce today to test it for yourself.

Ecwid

Another plug-in you might consider using is Ecwid. Ecwid is an eCommerce software that lets you incorporate shopping cart widgets–such as buy buttons or a full online store–into any pre-built website. Ecwid is a perfect solution for small to medium-sized businesses that want a simple way to add an online store to their website. Over one million merchants currently use Ecwid for their online selling.

Ecwid is a SaaS (software as a service) solution, which means that although you have to find hosting for your WordPress site, hosting for your Ecwid store is already included. Instead, you’ll just have to pay a monthly price to use the software. This price depends primarily on the number of products you plan on listing. Each step up in pricing also includes more advanced features. Take a look below for a quick breakdown of pricing:

  • Free Plan: $0/Month
    • 10 Products
  • Venture: $15/Month
    • 100 Products
  • Business: $35/Month
    • 2,500 Products
  • Unlimited: $99/Month
    • Unlimited Products

To add Ecwid to your WordPress account, sign for an Ecwid account at ecwid.com. Then, install and activate the app in your WordPress dashboard. Completing these actions will let you make changes to your Ecwid store from WordPress.

Here’s a look at Ecwid’s dashboard within WordPress:

Alternatively, you can choose to manage your store from Ecwid’s own dashboard. Since the two programs are now connected, every change you make in Ecwid will be reflected in your WordPress site. Here’s Ecwid’s dashboard:

We recommend using Ecwid’s dashboard to manage your online store. We think Ecwid’s dashboard is more intuitive and easier to use in general.

Using Ecwid will give you access to many of the necessary selling features. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Buy Buttons
  • Multi-Channel Selling
  • Real-Time Shipping Rates
  • Promotions & Discounts
  • Sell Digital Products
  • Mobile Management App

Ecwid supplies users with one Starter Site theme that you can use to develop your storefront using drag-and-drop tools. There are also third-party themes available as well as HTML and CSS editors for more in-depth customization.

As is typical with SaaS solutions, Ecwid provides technical support through several channels. Your pricing plan will determine how you are able to reach customer support, whether that is through email, live chat, or phone. Everyone has access to a knowledge base and community support forums. Remember, Ecwid can only help with issues related to their software. They do not provide WordPress support.

Ecwid is a great solution for any merchant who’s looking for a simple way to sell products on their website. The app is easy to use with WordPress, it’s affordable, and it works. For more information, read our full review or sign up for Ecwid’s free plan to try it out.

Selz

Selz, selz review

Selz is another SaaS shopping cart solution that plugs into any website. Like Ecwid, Selz offers users both ease of use and versatility. Selz gives merchants the option of adding eCommerce features to any website in a variety of ways. You can choose to add an online store to an established website, embed buy buttons for select products, sell directly on social media, or set up a fully hosted online store.

Selz is designed for startups, artists, writers, and musicians, and the platform currently serves over 100,000 merchants worldwide. Ease of use is Selz’s strongest feature, which is wonderful for many beginning merchants.

On the other hand, sometimes Selz’s ease of use can be a limiting factor for sellers who are looking to grow. Selz does not offer many advanced features or integrations. Nevertheless, many sellers find that Selz fits their needs perfectly.

As a SaaS solution, Selz charges a monthly fee for the use of their software. There are four plans to choose from. These plans are organized by the number of products you plan to list. Additional features are available on higher level plans. Here’s a quick overview of pricing:

  • Free Plan: $0/Month
    • 5 Product Maximum
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Lite Plan: $19/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 2% Transaction Fee
  • Standard Plan: $29/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 1% Transaction Fee
  • Pro Plan: $49/Month
    • Unlimited Products
    • 0.5% Transaction Fee
    • No Transaction Fee If Using Selz Pay

To add Selz to your WordPress site, you’ll have to create a Selz account and then install and activate the Selz app in your WordPress dashboard.

Then, head back into your Selz dashboard. Using this dashboard, you can create products and discounts, process orders, and manage shipping settings. In order to test your setup with WordPress, you should add at least one or two products.

Now, you can decide how you’d like to add eCommerce to your site, whether that’s via buy buttons or an entire online store. When you make your decision, you’ll just have to follow Selz’s instructions to add products to your WordPress site.

During my testing, I decided to add my entire Selz store to WordPress. I looked into Selz’s instructions, but I had a bit of difficulty locating the correct buttons. I eventually figured out that WordPress’s new Gutenberg editor was complicating the process. Selz has not yet updated their support documentation to provide instructions for this new WordPress version. When I switched back to WordPress’s older Classic Editor, I was able to quickly integrate my store.

While both WooCommerce and Ecwid give you access to store management features within your WordPress dashboard, this is not the case with Selz. In order to add new products, process orders, etc. you will have to log back into your Selz dashboard.

Selz offers the basic features you need for online selling. Although Selz focuses mostly on the basics, they do include a few advanced features such as abandoned cart recovery and digital downloads. Take a look at a few of Selz’s features:

  • Sell Anywhere
  • Sell Physical & Digital Products
  • Real-Time Shipping Rates
  • Pay What You Want
  • Discounts & Coupons
  • Multi-Currency Capabilities
  • Abandoned Cart Recovery

When it comes to web design, Selz users are all set. There are 25 beautiful, image-focused designs to choose from, and they’re all free. Users can customize these designs by using the drag-and-drop editor or the HTML/CSS editors.

Support is available for all Selz users in the form of 24/7 live chat and email. There is also a Help Center full of useful documentation for users who prefer a do-it-yourself approach. As always, you’ll have to keep in mind that while Selz representatives love to help you use their software, they can’t help when it comes to WordPress difficulties.

Selz is a perfect solution for makers and startups who want to get their online stores started quickly. In particular, Selz works well for merchants who want to offer lots of digital products. If this sounds like you, head over to our full Selz review for more information. Or, you can take a look at Selz yourself.

Final Thoughts

So, is WordPress easy to use for eCommerce? We certainly think so, especially when you use the right eCommerce plug-in.

Take a deeper look at any of the three options we present above, and don’t be afraid to test out the plug-ins before you commit. All of these eCommerce solutions offer a free platform (or free download) so you can integrate the software with your WordPress site without paying a dime. And if you decide it isn’t a good fit for you, it’s easy to deactivate the integration. In fact, it just takes a few clicks.

So, what are you waiting for? Head over to our reviews or sign up for one of these shopping carts and get testing!

The post Is WordPress Easy To Use For eCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Register.com Domain Registrar Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Register Review

Register.com is a domain registrar owned by Web.com (one of the largest and oldest website hosting/builder brands in the industry). They were one of the first give companies chosen by ICANN to participate in the initial test phase of the new competitive shared registry system, making them one of the oldest and most established domain registrar companies in the game outside of Network Solutions.

Aside from domain purchasing and management, Register.com offers a range of products, from marketing to hosting to web design. Their main pitch is that their services and solutions cover all ranges of business sizes and especially help small businesses build their web presence without the need for technical experience.

Given Register.com has a certain level of brand recognition and clout, I decided to try them out as a domain registrar. Here’s my Register.com review – structured with pros & cons based on my recent experience as a customer.

Skip to the conclusion & next steps here.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Register.com

There are a lot of Register.com reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine, but I take a different approach. There is no such thing as a “best” domain registrar. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience and expertise. Just because one company is not a good fit for you does not mean it’s not a good fit for someone else.

Register.com is different. Their only pro is their brand name and corporate history. They do offer domain registration & web services, but they simply do not excel at providing any value beyond the assurance of their brand name.

Based on my professional opinion, they are a classic case of a company coasting on their name while other companies out-compete on raw value.

Even for “meh” companies, I try to pull out some reasons to choose them over others. But I really could not find a single reason to use Register.com over someone else besides their brand recognition and positioning. I liken Register.com to finding a McDonald’s at an Interstate exit in the middle of Kansas. Even if you dislike everything about McDonald’s, if it’s the only recognizable option and you’re hungry, you’d probably choose them.

But the Internet is not a highway exit in Kansas. There are so many other choices that are just a click away. Which means while Register.com carries corporate clout, that clout doesn’t outweigh the lack of value.

If you’re curious about the details, I’ll cover more in the cons section below. If not, you can skip to the conclusion and next steps for alternative options.

Register.com Cons

Convoluted Domain Buying Experience

The actual process of buying a domain from Register.com is pretty horrendous, especially compared to the big leaps in UX that other companies have made..

For starters, when you search for a domain, Register.com automatically adds it to your cart if it’s available without showing any pricing information. Even if I search for just the root of a domain and don’t specify the TLD, the .com version is still automatically added without me knowing the price.

There also isn’t pricing information for suggested domains. This complete lack of transparency with pricing is one of the company’s biggest flaws (more on that in a bit).

register.com domain registration process

Next, I tried to see my cart to view pricing info, but I was forced to create an account first. Personally, this makes me uneasy. I’m already feeling iffy with the lack of pricing transparency and the auto add to cart… now I can’t even review my cart without signing up with Register.com? No bueno.

register.com account sign up process

Once I was able to finally see my cart contents, I learned my domain would cost $5, but I have to pay an additional $11 for private domain registration. There appears to be a discount applied, but to get details you’ll have to click through for more information.

register.com pricing discount

However, with the information provided, I have no idea how much it will cost me to renew my domain each year.

Register.com Renewals

Aside from the pricing issues, the checkout process was also littered with upsells. Which brings me to…

Upsells

When a domain registrar offers complementary products (like hosting, website builders, etc.), I expect some upselling. It’s not inherently bad or annoying — it’s an option for customers who want complementary products but also keeps prices low for those who don’t.

So when I see a registrar is upselling, I try to pay special attention to how. Is it subtle and user-friendly? Or does it stall what I’m actually trying to accomplish?

Register.com does two things wrong with upsells. First, they appear at nearly every opportunity instead of only when I’m looking (AKA at checkout or in an upgrade section). Plus, the upsells in checkout impede my progress (there were at least two upsells I had to click through before I could enter my payment information).

Register.com Upsell 1 Register.com Upsell 2

Second, their messaging for many upsells is so oversimplified, it’s misleading. Take this messaging about my online effectiveness score…

Register.com upsell messaging

The combination of oversimplified and frequent upsells is both annoying and makes me wonder who they’re really looking out for.

Pricing

As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest cons of Register.com is their lack of transparency in their pricing. I couldn’t find a full list of prices for TLDs, and when I searched for domains, none of the options provided had prices listed.

register.com pricing info for TLDs

Unfortunately, the complications don’t end there.

When I purchased my first domain, I could get a few basic TLDs (.com, .org, etc.) for $5 with a first-time discount that applied to my first three domains.

However, if you log back in during a new session, you’ll have to manually enter the promo code, and if you try to create a new account, you may not get the promo — it appears Register.com aggressively tag new users with cookies to prevent promotions.

After that promo was up, my next .com domain was $38 plus an additional $11 for privacy.

register.com pricing after promo

This is outrageously expensive for a simple domain. Even a big brand like GoDaddy will sell a .com domain at $11.99 and renew at $14.99, while more up and coming brands like Namecheap will sell at $2.98 and renew at 12.98 for .com domains.

Transparency (Or Lack Thereof)

All of Register.com’s cons can essentially be summed up into one glaring issue: a lack of transparency. I couldn’t find a comprehensive list of domain pricing by TLD, nor could I find a comprehensive list of TLD options. I couldn’t check out without upsells, but it’s unclear which upsells I really need due to oversimplified messaging.

All in all, the experience made me very wary of Register.com. I’m all about information — I like to know what to expect and to compare options. When there’s such an obvious lack of information, it makes me wonder why that info isn’t provided.

Conclusion + Next Steps

Overall, I was throw by how bad Register.com was. I figured for a company that carries such brand recognition, surely there has to be some value… but I really couldn’t find anything besides their corporate name. If you are still sold on them, go check them out here.

But remember… this isn’t an interstate exit in Kansas with only one recognizable option! So with that said…

If you still want to purchase domains from a well-known brand but want some deep discounts, check out GoDaddy here.

If you prefer an overall excellent domain registrar with the best long-term pricing, then I recommend checking out NameCheap here.

And if you want to just get a domain with your hosting company to keep everything convenient, then take my hosting quiz to find the right company for you.

Register.com

Register.com is a domain registrar owned by Web.com (one of the largest and oldest website hosting/builder brands in the industry). They offer domain registration and complementary products such as hosting and website builders.
Register.com Review
Date Published: 08/28/2018
Register.com is a classic example of a company riding on its name while getting outdone by other companies who are competing on raw value. Their lack of transparency and high prices make them a poor choice for a domain registrar.
1 / 5 stars

The post Register.com Domain Registrar Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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ShippingEasy VS Ordoro

ShippingEasy VS Ordoro
✓ Pricing
✓ Ease of Use
Features ✓
Tie Integrations & Add-Ons Tie
✓  Customer Service & Technical Support
Tie Negative Reviews & Complaints Tie
Tie Positive Reviews & Testimonials Tie
Winner Final Verdict
Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Compare

Every online seller knows that one of the best ways to keep your prices low is to keep your shipping costs low. And in order to do that, you need a robust shipping software that can help you find the best shipping rates every time.

ShippingEasy and Ordoro are two such shipping software apps. Both of these services are SaaS (Software as a Service) solutions, meaning that they are fully-hosted programs that you can access through a monthly subscription. But the similarities don’t stop there. Both companies have headquarters in Austin, TX and both offer steep discounts on shipping rates. And most importantly, both software give merchants the power to easily generate shipping labels and purchase and print postage.

So, how do you choose between them?

In this article, we’re taking an in-depth look at both ShippingEasy and Ordoro to see what they have to offer in terms of features, ease of use, customer service, and pricing. Keep reading to learn how these two programs stack up again each other and discover which option is best for your business.

Pricing

Winner: ShippingEasy

Pricing for both ShippingEasy and Ordoro is based on the number of orders you ship per month. Pricing increases as you ship more orders. Moving up the pricing scale will also give you access to stronger customer support options and more advanced features.

Here’s a quick breakdown of ShippingEasy’s pricing scale:

Starter

  • $0/Month
  • 50 Shipments/Month

Basic

  • $29/Month
  • 500 Shipments/Month

Plus

  • $49/Month
  • 1,500 Shipments/Month

Select

  • $69/Month
  • 3,000 Shipments/Month

Premium

  • $99/Month
  • 6,000 Shipments/Month

ShippingEasy has an enterprise level plan for merchants with over 6,000 shipments/month. Enterprise is available for $149/month.

ShippingEasy also offers features for customer relationship management and inventory management at an additional monthly cost. These additional costs range from $3/month to $50/month for each service.

Ordoro offers their services in two forms: Basic and Pro. Basic includes features for shipping only. Pro plans include features for shipping, inventory management, and dropshipping. Ordoro has a free plan available that comes with only email support. Paid plans include both email and phone support.

Basic: Shipping Only

  • Free
    • 50 Orders/Month
    • 1 Sales Channel
    • 1 User
  • $25/Month
    • 700 Orders/Month
    • Unlimited Sales Channels
    • Unlimited Users
  • $49/Month
    • 3,000 Orders/Month
    • All Of The Above PLUS
      • Logos On Shipping Labels
      • User Permissions
  • $129/Month
    • Unlimited Orders/Month
    • All Of The Above PLUS
      • Multiple Ship-From Locations

Pro: Shipping + Inventory Management + Dropshipping

  • $299/Month
    • 1,500 Orders/Month
    • 5 Sales Channels
    • 5 Users
  • $499/Month
    • 4,000 Orders/Month
    • 7 Sales Channels
    • 7 Users
  • Enterprise (Pricing By Quote)
    • Unlimited Orders/Month
    • Unlimited Sales Channels
    • Unlimited Users

Pricing is comparable between the two apps, and they both offer similar features at similar price points. However, ShippingEasy is a bit more affordable when you consider the add-on features of customer management and inventory management. These features cost just a few dollars more with ShippingEasy compared to the minimum $299/month you’d have to pay to get these features on an Ordoro Pro plan.

Ease Of Use

Winner: ShippingEasy

With a name like ShippingEasy, I had high hopes that the software would be a breeze to use. Fortunately, ShippingEasy lives up to its name. I had no trouble at all learning to use the software during my initial trial.

Setting up my free 30-day trial was a simple process. When I connected my ShippingEasy account with my Shopify shopping cart, all my orders transferred over immediately.

To process orders, just click “Create Shipments.” Then, click on the “Shipments” tab and set up your shipping parameters. Those parameters include the carrier, postage rate, packaging, and weight. Once you’ve done all that, you can purchase and print your postage

On this page, you have to option to print a shipping label, a packing slip, or both.

Ordoro is similarly user-friendly. The dashboard is clean and simple.

When you link your account to your eCommerce platform, your orders will automatically import in. All new orders will transfer within an hour of the time they are placed.

You can then select any pending orders (individually or in bulk) and start processing. When you select an order, you’ll be presented with a shipping and return label generator on the side of your screen.

Then, you can select a carrier, a package type, and a shipping method to create a shipping label.

Try out Ordoro for yourself with a free 15-day trial. You have to hand over some basic information and a credit card number to sign up, but you’ll only be billed in you stay beyond your first 15 days. Don’t forget both ShippingEasy and Ordoro also have free plans that you can sign up for instead.

While both of these shipping programs are very user-friendly, I prefer ShippingEasy’s dashboard. I think it’s just a little more intuitive.

Features

Winner: Ordoro

All ShippingEasy users have access to shipping features. Customer management and inventory management features are available at additional cost.

Shipping

  • Low Rates: ShippingEasy partners with the USPS to provide savings up to 46%.
  • Multi-Channel: Manage orders from multiple sales platforms in one dashboard. Upload orders in bulk using a pre-built integration or using CSV files.
  • Automatic Emails: Send automatic emails when orders ship. Include your branding in those emails.
  • Shipping Rules: Automate your order fulfillment process with shipping rules
  • Batch Order Processing: Generate and print multiple shipping labels with one click.
  • Returns: Send scan-based return labels or email out return labels upon request.
  • Customs Forms: Ship internationally with automatically generated customs forms.

Inventory Management & Customer Management

If you subscribe to a plan that grants you inventory and customer management, you’ll have access to a few more features. Set low stock alerts, create purchase orders, enable multichannel customer management, and utilize email marketing.

In the same way, all Ordoro users can use the shipping features. Dropshipping and inventory management features come at an extra expense.

Shipping

  • Batch Printing: Process hundreds of orders at once.
  • Discounted Rates: A partnership with USPS provides discounts of up to 67%.
  • Multi-Channel Capabilities: Manage everything in one place.
  • Shipment Tracking: View tracking information and forward tracking numbers to your customers when their orders ship.

Dropshipping & Inventory Management

Ordoro’s dropshipping features let users dropship through multiple suppliers with ease. Inventory management features let you sync inventory, set stock thresholds, and create purchase orders.

Ordoro’s dropshipping features get a whole lot of love from their user base. Merchants who use Shopify as their shopping cart are especially fond of those features.

We think Ordoro’s dropshipping features give them a slight advantage over ShippingEasy. Ordoro is the winner here!

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Tie

ShippingEasy and Ordoro both integrate with eCommerce’s most popular software. You can find pre-built integrations to the leading shopping cart software, accounting software, and shipping carriers.

These solutions include the following:

eCommerce Platforms

  • Shopify
  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • BigCommerce

Accounting

  • Xero
  • Intuit Quickbooks

Carriers

  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • USPS
  • DHL

ShippingEasy and Ordoro also both have APIs that your developers can use to build any connection that the software does not already include.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: ShippingEasy

ShippingEasy offers customer support through a variety of avenues. While the free plan only allows access to self-help support, every paid plan includes personalized support via phone and support tickets. ShippingEasy’s self-help resources include a knowledge base, a community forum, and a blog. Users say representatives are helpful, friendly, and quick to respond. My own experience lines up with these reviews.

Ordoro also offers support via self-help resources in addition to phone and email. While I’m glad Ordoro provides various ways to contact support, I was a bit disappointed by some of the pages in their documentation. I found that a few articles and videos were out of date. Fortunately, Ordoro users report that the company’s support reps are top notch.

This category is closely matched, but ultimately we’re awarding the category to ShippingEasy. All of their documentation is up to date with the current software version.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both ShippingEasy and Ordoro get plenty of praise online. Review boards are full of positive reviews of both software; however, neither service gets many negative reviews. Here’s what the very few negative reviews I’ve found have to say about each software.

Users on ShippingEasy complain that there is a slight learning curve to getting started with the software. In addition, they say some features could be improved or adjusted to make workflow smoother.

A few of the cons I personally encountered with Ordoro include the outdated documentation I mentioned earlier as well as the limited features included in the software’s basic plans. In order to access dropshipping, kitting, and inventory management features, you have to be on at least the Pro plan at $299/month. While it is true that you must pay to access these features on ShippingEasy as well, they are much cheaper with ShippingEasy (the highest price for customer management and inventory management is $50/month each).

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

As I’ve said, reviews of ShippingEasy and Ordoro are overwhelmingly positive.

Users of ShippingEasy love that the software is easy to use and that it integrates with lots of popular platforms and marketplaces. They also praise ShippingEasy’s support team for their excellent and speedy assistance.

Merchants who ship with Ordoro are fans of both the support team and of Ordoro’s multiple integrations. In addition, users love Ordoro’s dropshipping features, especially in connection with Shopify.

How can you choose a winner for this category? We’re calling a tie.

Final Verdict

Winner: ShippingEasy

In the end, ShippingEasy emerges the victor of this matchup. This app’s stellar customer service, ease of use and pricing make it a formidable opponent in any comparison. To find out if ShippingEasy could work for your unique business, take a closer look at the software with our full review or by signing up for a trial yourself.

And while you’re at it, you might as well look into Ordoro as well. Ordoro matches ShippingEasy in many areas, only barely falling behind in our comparison. They also offer a free trial so you can test out the software before you commit, or you can read our full review.

Whatever you choose, we hope these shipping software solutions help you move product more efficiently and profitably!

The post ShippingEasy VS Ordoro appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Mint VS Quicken

Managing personal finances can be hard, and choosing the right personal accounting tool can seem even harder. That’s why we’re here to compare two of the most popular personal finance management tools out there: Mint and Quicken.

Mint is a cloud-based, easy to use finance tool that’s been around since 2007. The software was acquired by Intuit in 2009 and today it features expense tracking, investment tracking, budgeting, planning, and more. Mint also offers well-developed mobile apps, so you can easily check your spending on the go. The icing on the cake? Mint is completely free.

Quicken has been the big name in personal accounting from the beginning. Created in 1988, this software was also run by Intuit until 2016 when it was acquired by H.I.G. Capital. Quicken offers an incredible number of features and amazing customer support. Although Quicken is a locally-installed software, there are still mobile apps available.

But which software is better? And more importantly, which is right for you? That’s what we’re here to find out.

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. To make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll put Mint and Quicken head to head by comparing features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Mint VS Quicken
Features ✓

✓

Pricing

✓

Hardware & Software Requirements

✓

Ease Of Use

✓

Mobile Apps
Customer Service & Support ✓
Negative Reviews & Complaints ✓

✓

Positive Reviews & Testimonials
Integrations ✓

✓

Security

?

And The Overall Winner Is… ?

Features

Winner: Quicken

Mint Quicken

Expenses Tracking

✓

✓

Transactions Imported Automatically

✓

✘

Income Tracking

✓

✓

Spending Trends

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✘

✓

Manage Bills

✓

✓

Online Bill Pay

✘

✓

Budgeting

✓

✓

Savings Goals

✓

✓

Property Management

✓

✓

Investment Tracking

✓

✓

Reports

✘

✓

Credit Score

✓

✓

Debt Reduction Planner

✘

✓

Print Checks

✘

✓

In many ways, the programs are similar. Each offers income and expense tracking, bill management,  budgeting, credit score checks, and investment tracking. However, while Mint offers a ton of great features, Quicken’s features are far more developed.

For example, Mint only allows you to create one budget and it has to be for the current month, while Quicken allows you to create multiple budgets for the current month, next month, quarter, or year. Quicken also offers additional features like bank reconciliation, reports, a debt reduction planner, and online bill pay.

Pricing

Winner: Mint

Mint is completely free to use. There are no monthly payments or hidden fees. The software makes money by advertising credit cards, Turbo Tax, and investment accounts to users.

While you can’t beat free, Quicken is still an affordable option. Quicken offers three pricing plans that range from $34.99 – $74.99/year. The company also often sells the software at a discount. Still, Mint is the cheapest way to manage your personal finances.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Mint

As cloud-based software, Mint is compatible with nearly any computer, so long as you have an internet connection.

Quicken has more specific software requirements as the program is locally-installed onto a single computer. Quicken is compatible with:

  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 10
  • Macs with El Capitan 10.11+

Mint wins this category since its requirements are less strict, making it accessible for nearly any user.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Mint

Mint is the clear winner here. Mint has a beautiful, modern UI that is easy to navigate. The features are intuitive and well-organized, and the software offers time-saving automations as well. Quicken is also well-organized, but the UI is a bit more dated and some features are unitive and difficult to figure out.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Mint

Both Mint and Quicken have mobile apps for Apple and Android products. However, Mint’s mobile apps receive much more positive attention from customers, and Quicken’s apps receive low ratings on both iTunes and Google Play. If mobility is one of the key factors in your personal accounting software decision, then Mint is the clear winner.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Quicken

Quicken not only has better support but also has far more support options. Quicken offers phone support, in-software help, tons of guides, a help center, a community forum, and live chat. In my experience, phone wait times were short and most representatives were knowledgeable and helpful.

Mint, on the other hand, offers very few customer support options. And if you need to talk to an actual person, you’re out of luck. You’ll have to make do with live chat and FAQs. It’s easy to see who the winner is here.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Quicken

This is one category Quicken should not want to win. Quicken has far more customer complaints. Most complaints are from long-time users who don’t like Quicken’s new subscription pricing structure. Though there are complaints about glitches, issues loading transactions, and limited mobile apps as well.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Mint

While both programs have many satisfied users, Mint has more positive reviews and a higher percentage of positive to negative reviews. Mint users love the software’s usability, price, feature set, and mobility.

Integrations

Winner: Quicken

Both Mint and Quicken connect with thousands of banks and online lenders so that you can track your spending and upcoming bills. However, in terms of additional add-ons, Quicken offers seven, while Mint only offers two.

Security

Winner: Mint

This category is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. With a locally-installed software like Quicken, you are responsible for keeping your data secure. Quicken does use data encryption for the data involved in its online features, and the software offers password protection for your Quicken files, but other than that, you’re on your own.

As a cloud-based software, Mint has security built-in from the beginning. We figure that for most people, the convenience of having security taken care of for you outweighs all of the extra efforts of securing your locally-installed software.

And The Overall Winner Is…

Winner: Quicken

Quicken Review

With advanced features, good customer support, and affordable pricing, Quicken is ultimately the better software. However, I still have a hard time naming this tried-and-true program the absolute winner. Unlike most software comparisons we do, in this case, it’s not about which software is better. It’s about what type of person you are.

For people looking for a detailed way to actively manage every aspect of their finances, Quicken is a great choice. It is ideal for users who are used to QuickBooks or who enjoy the complexity of locally-installed software.  If you want to create multiple budgets, track savings goals, and run reports, Quicken has far more to offer than Mint.

For people who want a simpler way to keep their spending in check and manage the basics of their finances, Mint is the winner. It is ideal for users who like cloud-based software and strong mobile apps that can keep up with a mobile lifestyle.

In the end, it all comes down to the level of detail you want and what type of software you’re more comfortable with.

More Accounting Options:

Compare Top Accounting Software

See All Accounting Reviews

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Hover Domains Review: Pros & Cons of Hover Domains as Domain Registrar

Hover Domains Review

Hover Domains is a domain registrar founded in 2009 as an offshoot of Tucows Inc. (the second largest ICANN accredited domain registrar online). Hover’s M.O. is that they stick to what they know, and that’s domains.

But let’s be honest, you probably only know them from their podcast ads on shows like Hello Internet and 99% Invisible. While Grey and Roman might plug them – you want to know how they actually stack up.

Well – this domain registrar deals solely with buying, managing, and transferring domains on their platform. They do offer email services, but do not offer other complementary products such as hosting, website builders, etc.

Check out Hover’s products & pricing here.

It’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not an email, an app, or any other service. It’s simply your online address. It helps people locate where you are. If you want to setup a website, you’ll still need to get hosting or a website builder / ecommerce provider that provides hosting (which Hover does not provide).

I’ll dive deeper into this in the pros and cons, but it’s an important distinction to make up front, because it helps us understand what Hover’s goal is. They’re not about being an all-in-one solution — quite the opposite, actually. Their focus is on on simplicity. They’re all about getting you your domain and letting you use it wherever you need it through app integrations.

How does Hover stack up against other domain registrars? Here’s our review of Hover Domains as a domain registrar with pros and cons.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Hover Domains

Interface

Hover’s interface is about as user-friendly as it gets. It’s clean, simple, and easy to navigate. The domain search is the most prominent thing on the homepage, making it clear exactly where to go to get started.

Hover Interface

Once you search for a domain, you’re given a clean list with an exact match and other recommendations. Hover offers a ton of top level domain options (more on that in a minute), and gives an easy way to navigate through them with different filter categories.

Hover Domain Search Results
The checkout process itself is simple as well. It took me four easy steps to get my domain from my cart to my dashboard. For a domain registrar that prides itself on simplicity, Hover definitely delivers.

Variety of TLDs

Now that ICANN allows more TLDs outside of generic .com/.net/.org, website owners have to make sure their domain registrar has all the ones they want (especially if you’re buying in bulk). Hover has a ton of TLD options that go beyond generic domains, which are broken down by categories to make finding the perfect match easier.

Hover TLDs categorized

Hover also offers a ton of country-specific domains for international use, making it a great choice if you need to buy up domains for various countries/regions or even cities.

Hover TLDs Countries
Transparent Pricing

Domain registrars use a whole host of pricing types, from cheap upfront pricing with high renewal rates to expensive with cheap renewals.

Hover is fairly straightforward with their pricing. Their table breaks down pricing for purchase, renewal, and transfer for all of their TLD types. Their rates include WHOIS privacy protection, which means that your personal details like name, address, and contact information are protected from spammers, marketers, and others who may do a WHOIS lookup. The prices do not include ICANN fees however, which means you’ll need to add an additional $0.18 on to your purchase (more on that in the cons).

Hover Pricing
Hover also offers discounts on renewal rates when you have 10 or more domains registered with them. You can see how the pricing breaks down for the domain ranges in their pricing table.

Hover Pricing Bulk Savings

“Real Person” Support

While I haven’t had to contact support, Hover is well known for their excellent customer service. They claim to be fellow haters of the phone tree, and as such, don’t use automated systems. Whether you’re calling in, emailing, or live chatting, you’re connected to a person.

Hover Support Mentality

In terms of coverage, Hover offers a pretty robust schedule. You can contact them weekdays (8:00 AM – 11:00 PM ET) and weekends (8:00 AM – 8:00 PM ET) via email, phone, or live chat.

Their “Need Help” tab also follows you throughout the site and offers frequently asked questions and answers, as well as a link to their live chat and additional support information.

Hover Support Options

Integrations

Although Hover focuses solely on domain registering and managing (and email), it does offer a plethora off apps you can easily integrate your domain with, from website builders like Squarespace to ecommerce platforms like Shopify.

Hover Integrations
Aside from the integration options, the actual process of integrating your domain is fairly straightforward. Hover provides step-by-step instructions for each app, making it easy for even the least tech-experienced website owners. They’ll even handle some of the work for you (like adding your DNS records to connect your domain with your website platform).

Hover App Integration Instructions

Data Protection

One of the main things that stood out to me while registering a domain with Hover was how far they went to protect my data. There’s nothing worse than registering a domain and getting tons of spam emails immediately afterward (or getting retargeted by ads left and right). WHOIS privacy protects this somewhat, but Hover goes a step beyond during the checkout process by allowing you to select how your data is shared. I also received an email after purchasing my domain prompting me to set my data use consent preferences.

Hover Data Use Email

Cons of Hover Domains

Lacking Complementary Products

Hover’s focus on only domains is a pro, but it’s also a con.

There are several products that almost always go with a domain. If you want to make your site secure with SSL, you’ll need an SSL certificate associated with the domain. You can buy it separately from a third party, but from my experience, managing it with your domain is simpler.

When it comes to hosting, I like to separate my domains and hosting, but many owners prefer that their hosting and domains get bundled into one (even if it’s not ideal from a performance perspective).

NameCheap has competitive hosting; GoDaddy offers affordable managed WordPress hosting with domains. And most hosting companies offer domain registration (or even free domains) with hosting purchase (such as InMotion or Bluehost).

Those kind of products simply aren’t available with Hover. You can purchase domain email (AKA match your domain name to an email address (or several), but if you’re looking for the convenience of having your hosting and website builder all in one platform, you’re out of luck.

Pricing

While Hover offers straightforward pricing (which is a pro), the con is that they tend to be pricier than other registrars — and this is the largest con going against them as a domain registrar.

If you want to compare prices, let’s look at NameCheap vs. Hover. You can get a .com domain on NameCheap for $10.98 (plus the $0.18 ICANN fee), which then renews at $12.98. With Hover, that same .com domain will cost you $12.99 and renews at $14.99.

The pricing discrepancy gets even larger when you get into other specialty TLDs. See the comparison for this .condos domain between Hover and NameCheap.

If you’re looking to save money on a domain purchase or renewal and don’t mind the upselling/cross selling that typically comes with those registrars, there are better choices out there for you than Hover.

If you don’t mind spending a bit more for a domain registrar that’s straightforward and keeps their cross selling and upselling out of it, Hover isn’t a bad choice – but you need to fully factor in your costs.

Next Steps

If you…

  • Want a very simple domain buying and integration experience
  • Need a registrar that offers plenty of support
  • Want to keep your email and your domain with the same provider
  • Don’t need complementary products (besides email)

… Hover Domains could be a good fit for you.

However, if you’re…

  • More experienced in getting online
  • Looking to save on domains (especially specialty TLDs)
  • Want to keep your hosting and domains in the same place

… there are better options out there for you (I mostly use NameCheap). You can take my domain registrar quiz to help you narrow down which might be best for your needs.

Hover Domains

Hover Domains is a domain registrar founded in 2009 as an offshoot of Tucows Inc. (the second largest ICANN accredited domain registrar online). This domain registrar deals solely with buying, managing, and transferring domains on their platform (they also offer email services, but no other complementary products).
Hover Domains Review
Date Published: 08/08/2018
Simple, straightforward domain purchasing process with solid support and easy integration with a wide variety of apps. Pricier than other registrars and no complementary products aside from email.
3 / 5 stars

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